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Wharton's Financial Literacy Community Project seeks to close the wealth gap in the West Philadelphia community by providing free financial literacy courses to high school students. 

Credit: Arabella Uhry , Arabella Uhry

When people think about subjects taught in high school, finance is usually not the first one that comes to mind.

The Financial Literacy Community Project, which is run out of the Wharton School, recruits Penn students to teach West Philadelphia high schoolers about fiscal responsibility and personal finance. The 27 teachers in the program develop the curriculum and prepare lesson plans, then teach lessons at one of five schools in the Philadelphia area affiliated with the project. 

Wharton senior and FLCP co-president Reece Cannady believes college students can relate to high school students more easily than older adults can.

“The connection can be different between child to adult,” Cannady said. “But when they have a 20-year-old coming at them and saying, ‘Hey, you need to save money, this is really important,’ you’re so similar in age that the connection can be made.”

Wharton senior Marisa Rackson, a teacher for the project, said that FLCP is dedicated to measuring its impact in the community by using pre- and post-assessments to evaluate students' learning.

“When you’re teaching, you’re focusing on … how you’re going to make the most impact in the most efficient manner — making it engaging and competing with somebody’s cellphone,” she said. “When you’re on the logistical-administrative side, your challenge is focused on how do you think about the brand, how do you expand and scale and how do you have more impact.”

Professor Keith Weigelt runs the project out of the Management Department in Wharton. Student teachers receive credit for their work through the Wharton Field Challenge — a course that connects students to outside organizations — and their results go into his research. Weigelt began the Building Bridges to Wealth program approximately five years ago, which aims to close the wealth gap that exists in Philadelphia.

“Professor Weigelt thought we should give back to the West Philadelphia community, so then he started doing outreach and teaching financial literacy, which rolled into outreach for West Philadelphia adults,” said Stacy Franks, associate director of the Field Application Project and the Wharton Field Challenge. She added that Weigelt also runs Saturday programs in financial literacy for adults.

Recruitment for the fall 2016 semester is an upcoming focus for FLCP. They will begin their screening process for teachers at the end of March.

This year the project is focusing its recruitment on reaching a diverse pool of candidates, Wharton and College junior and Director of Recruitment Gabriela Fajnzylber said. 

“Even though word of mouth is great … it doesn’t reach out to everyone," she added.

While the project is run by the Wharton Management Department, the student teachers are largely autonomous.

“They’re a great team. They’re engaged, well-organized,” Franks said. “They’re a well-oiled machine.” 

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